Covenant control


Front garden alterations

Open front gardens form part of the restrictive covenants that apply to most of the properties in Harlow.

Harlow New Town was originally designed so that front gardens would be 'open' in appearance – with no fences, walls, intrusions or parking of any vehicle. However, Harlow Council has started to relax these policies in some cases.

If you want to make changes to your front garden and your property has covenants controlled by Harlow Council, you will need to follow the guidelines on this page before making any changes to your garden.

As long as you follow the guidelines then you do not need to apply for our permission. If you want to make changes that go beyond the guidelines, a higher fence for example, then you would need to apply for our permission.

For details on how to apply see our main covenant control page

If you are unsure whether there are any covenants on your property, inspect the deeds or seek legal advice.



Front garden landscapes can be either hard or soft.

Hard landscapes

If you want to build a hard landscape it must be constructed from one of the following materials:

  • block or brick paving
  • textured paving (such as crazy or York stone)
  • paving slabs
  • patterned concrete
  • flexible (tarmac)
  • shingle (contained within a hard edge)

If you want to construct a hard standing to park your car on, you need to get permission first (see our page on front garden parking)

The building of a hard landscape is also restricted by the depth of your garden – you can only have a hard landscape as a percentage of the total area of your garden:

  • small garden (less than 5m): up to 75%
  • medium garden (more than 5m and up to 10m): up to 75%
  • large garden (more than 10m): up to 50%

The depth of your garden is the distance from your house to the boundary line of your property (so, the end of your front garden where it meets the path or road).

Soft landscapes

If you want to build a soft landscape it must be constructed from one of the following materials:

  • grass
  • shrubs, herbaceous and annuals*
  • specimen plants*
  • hedges*
  • trees (see below)

*Where these items form a border with a public footpath or right of way, the height will be restricted to a maximum of 600mm. If the public footpath is next to an adopted highway, the height restriction must be followed exactly.


You can put up ornamental, self-supporting, retaining or container walls up to a maximum height of 300mm (approximately 1ft).


You do not need to apply for covenant consent for fences to a front garden provided they do not exceed 600mm in height. Fences higher than 600mm will only be agreed in exceptional circumstances and consideration to sight lines for all traffic will be a concern for which a consultation with the council traffic engineer will be required.


Single gates will be allowed to a maximum height of 750mm but they must be restrained and fitted so that they only open into the garden.


If the edge of any proposed work is within 750mm of a tree trunk it cannot be carried out.